At home we simply called it “the ciambellone”, and the undisputed queen of this dessert was my grandmother. It was the cake she made when my brothers and I would sleep over at her house as children. It was meant for our breakfast, but we started eating it in the evening when it was still hot (which made her angry, or at least she pretended it did!).
For us, this recipe has always signified her love for us; she was not a woman who particularly loved to cook—or rather she did not like complex dishes—but she had a few simple and infallible recipes that marked our entire childhood.
My grandmother’s ricotta cake was so good that, once we got older, we started requesting it from her when we all got together for family birthdays. She was happy but at the same time amazed: “Ciambellone? The breakfast cake?” No baked good has ever come close to her ciambellone for us, which has held all the family birthday candles!
The secret, she would say, lay in the choice of ricotta and how it was worked: She preferred Piedmontese ricotta—”the best for desserts”—and worked it for a long time. My siblings and I would compete to help her during the preparation, but the ricotta mixing stage was always performed exclusively by her! And so we would content ourselves with helping her with the next steps, passing her the eggs, the flour with the yeast, the lemon zest, and the vanilla.